brown vs white fat

With warmer weather on its way, the eminent shedding of layers is upon us and, with that, the question of how much weight you put on over the colder months! More importantly, what KIND of gain…or loss. Brown fat? White fat? Muscle? What is the difference and how does this affect your health?

The difference between brown fat and white fat

White fat is made of big droplets of lipids, or fatty acids. White fat is created by the food we eat and the caloric intake is stored for later use. White fat is usually stored on your thighs, hips and belly. Too much stored white fat leads to obesity.

Brown fat cells are oval shaped adipose cells that react to hormones. These cells are packed with mitochondria, rich in iron, which gives brown fat its color. Infants use brown fat to regulate their body temperature as the nervous system and muscles are still developing. As we age, we store this fat around our neck, heart, kidneys and shoulders which slows the ability to activate this type of fat, so we see a decline. Studies show that active, fit bodies of all ages have more brown fat than white and may have the ability to stimulate the brown fat cells to grow and work more. We do not make more brown fat as we age but studies have examined certain foods on thermogenesis, the warming process that activates brown fat and white fat oxidation. There is also research on the effectiveness of physical activity and the oxidizing of white fat into brown. There is a correlation between the presence of brown fat in the body and good health. Those with more brown fat than white have a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Skinny fat or the skinny fat body type refers to a person who is slender but not toned, usually moderate weight but has a higher proportion of body fat and less than ideal lean body mass. These body types are at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases.

Why exercise?

If your New Year’s resolution is to work out, eat healthier and get that beach body this year has fizzled, here is some motivation.

Most people choose to work out for aesthetic reasons, to lose the beer belly or decrease a dress size and look better in that swimsuit. When the results of your efforts elude you, you stop. What if you resolved instead to exercise for longevity? A clearer mind, healthier heart and strength? The end goal usually comes with a better looking, stronger body. If you have limitations or just do not enjoy a traditional gym workout, gardening, yoga and walking are great alternatives. 

 The point here is simple, diet and exercise matters when it comes to the type of fat we have and use in our body.

Foods to activate and increase Brown fat:

  • Avocado
  • Apples 
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Fish
  • Green tea
  • Red grapes ( wine)
  • Spicy Foods
  • Iron Rich Foods
  • Spices like Turmeric, Curcumin and Red Chili pepper

Exercise to activate Brown Fat

  • Cold therapies like ice packs and cold plunges
  • Any activity in cooler temperatures or Cold exposure ( think of losing a layer of clothing while on your evening walk).
  • HIIT Training, Endurance Training, All water sports

Dixie Johnson is ORM’s Regenerative Medical Assistant and Aesthetician. She has travelled extensively to educate herself and others on the newest, coolest, and up-to-date biocellular therapies. For over 26 years, Dixie’s focus has been on creating positive, life changing experiences for all.


  1. Lauren Hellicar; Medically reviewed by Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP, What does skinny fat mean?, Medical News Today, 2023
  2. Ralph Ellis; Medically reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, Brown Fat: What You Need to Know. WebMD, 2022
  3. Brown Fat; Cleveland Clinic; Last reviewed 8/7/22
  4. Peres Valgas da Silva C, Hernández-Saavedra D, White JD, Stanford KI. Cold and Exercise: Therapeutic Tools to Activate Brown Adipose Tissue and Combat Obesity. Biology (Basel). 2019;8(1):9. Published 2019 Feb 12. doi:10.3390/biology8010009